Friday, November 8, 2013

The Turtle: Coming Out of My Shell

Judith Grob in the Turtle Pose. Read Judith's blog here.
About five years ago, a friend of mine’s mom gave me a necklace. It’s a carved woman, naked, with a turtle shell on her back. She is the woman who carries her home with her, and Jane gave her to me because I am her: I move around often, and I can feel at home wherever I am.
I have always identified with the turtle, although the extent of which I did so has been lost to me until recently. Before, I would have said that I identified with her because she carries her home with her; because she likes water, and because she has the ability to find safety inside herself, despite what is happening in the world around her.
Last summer at Yasodhara Ashram, someone showed us the turtle pose in a Hatha yoga class. I don’t remember who the first instructor was, but I do remember when Judith showed it to us again, because she could get into the FULL turtle pose, with her arms under her legs and back behind her on her butt. I was impressed and wowed, and even if I could never get into FULL turtle, simply wrapping my arms under my legs and around my ankles and breathing into the shell I created with my body was soothing…and also made me cry.
One of the first legends I ever heard was the one of the turtle creating the world by bringing sand up from the bottom of the ocean. She can dive deeply, hold her breath, and find herself and the answers in the underworld. She is unafraid of the dark, and capable of covering long distances with a slow and steady yet constant pace. She is wise, older than time, and manages to survive despite lack of speed or defenses that will not hurt others, and consist of simply hiding herself without having to go anywhere to do so.
These are the good parts of the turtle; the safety of eons of slow forward motion; self-defense without attacking others, and the ability to dive deep. Just as important, however, is the shadow side of the turtle, which I have only recently realized I also identify with.
The shadow side of the turtle hides when things get tough. She goes mute and can do nothing more than keep her limbs in as she is skittered along on her back by forces greater than herself. Her strength is not in lashing out when needed, but in staying in her shell until the coast is clear.
The coast is never clear.
I love feeling at home wherever I am, and yet I am ready to pick up another totem or animal to identify with. I want something loud and raucous this time, with the ability to reach outside itself for affection, and also to bite, HARD, or claw, or otherwise use tooth and nail to protect my niche, instead of being forced within myself until the predator loses strength or interest and wanders away. It is not that I am forsaking the turtle that has, until now, taught me how to survive with the resources I have had available. It is simply that now there are MORE resources outside of simple patience, slow forward motion and a shell to hide in. Now, it’s time for me to take wing, bare my claws if needed, but also find a different view besides the plodding one I have had until now: the one where only what I can see from the ground is available to me; where my only defense is to hide, instead of to shine.

Love and out of my shell kisses,